Blog

12Apr

The City Centre’s Growing Population Needs More Space and Less Traffic

Official figures now show that the City Centre is now one of the biggest residential areas in Bristol. The Living Heart for Bristol* is calling on the Mayor, the City Council and the people of Bristol to recognise that fact, and change their approach to planning and transport in the city centre.  Three draft plans published for consultation by the Council fail to recognise this, and are threatening the residents of the city centre with more traffic, more pollution and loss of public space.  In responding to the consultations on the Local Plan, Urban Living SPD and City Centre Framework, the Living Heart is calling for measures to prevent the growth of traffic which ‘business as usual’ would cause. The population of Bristol’s Central Ward was 15,800 in 2015.[1]  This was the seventh highest in the city.  It was higher than Easton, Clifton, Bishopston, Bedminster and most other residential neighbourhoods around the city.  It is also the fastest-growing residential neighbourhood.[2]  The Council’s plans would accelerate this population increase, with more high-rise building in particular.  The plans broadly suggest a ‘business as usual’ approach to traffic management and transport.  They contain no specific proposals to prevent traffic growth or increase public space in the city centre. A section of the draft local plan is entitled ‘Avonmouth Village – Protecting the Living Conditions of Residents.’ There are no equivalent policies for the city centre. Spokesman Steve Melia said: “None of these Council plans acknowledge the fact that Bristol City Centre is home to over 15,000 people.  I’m one of them and I get fed up with the way politicians and developers treat my neighbourhood. They seem to regard it as a cash cow and a dumping ground for car parking, traffic and pollution. We understand the need for more housing, but with this speed of population growth a ‘business as usual’ approach to traffic management will lead to disaster. These plans must be changed.  We need policies to remove through traffic and to constrain the quantity of parking in the city centre, which causes much of the traffic problem.  If you’ve ever visited Castle Park on a sunny day you will realise how desperately short we are of public space in central Bristol.  With more housing, more jobs and more people in the city centre, we will also need more public space.  Closing roads to traffic is the only way to do that in a city centre where land is becoming so scarce.”   Read the Living Heart's responses to the consultations on the Local Plan and the Urban Living SPD.   [1] Bristol City Council (2017) Central Ward Statistical profile. [2] This is why Central Ward was separated from the rest of Cabot Ward in 2015
17Dec

380 Space Car Park on Broadmead could Cause Illegal Increases in Air Pollution

Following this earlier objection by the Living Heart and many other people and organisations, the Council deferred a decision on the proposed redevelopment of Broadmead.  A revised application has been submitted including a smaller car park but do not resolve the reasons for our original objection.  We have objected again on the following grounds:
  1. The planned car park, though reduced in size, is would still bring more traffic into the city centre and onto the inner ring road.
  2. The Council is currently studying plans for a Clean Air Zone, which would include “measures to strengthen the planning system to avoid air quality issues arising from new developments”.  This application would create a bizarre new traffic route, where vehicles approaching the car park from the M32 (for example) would have to double back on themselves around James Barton roundabout and then queue on Brunswick Square before crossing Bond Street into the new car park.  This would clearly worsen air pollution on Bond Street and in Brunswick Square.  We have told the Council that a decision to approve the car park could be vulnerable to a legal challenge on air quality grounds.
  3. The plans would sever cycling permeability across a wide area of the city centre.  The application shows a "cycle access permitted" route through the shopping centre onto the pedestrianised area of Broadmead.   At busy times (such as during the Christmas markets) it would become unusable.  As a minimum requirement, the plans should include a segregated cycle route along the southern side of Bond Street, connecting the cycle routes along Temple Way with the Horsefair.
 
30Nov

Bristol Air Pollution: It’s Not Just About Charging Motorists

The Living Heart for Bristol is concerned that plans to charge drivers of older vehicles will “do the bare minimum” to reduce air pollution in central Bristol.  As this map shows, Bristol’s air is most dangerous in the city centre.  The Living Heart campaign is calling for a plan to remove through traffic from the area within the inner ringroad, so that only cars that need to go there will drive into the centre. Julian Jones from Bristol Friends of the Earth said:

“It’s not as if people stuck in traffic taking a shortcut through the centre are likely to stop and do some shopping.  They just get frustrated and want to get through.  They contribute to congestion and pollution, whilst blocking and discouraging actual shoppers.”

Following legal action against the UK Government, the government has given Bristol City Council money to commission consultants to produce alternative plans for a Clean Air Zone.  The legal requirements and the framework set by the Government are likely to require a “charging” Clean Air Zone.  Drivers of older vehicles will probably have to pay a charge to enter an area of Bristol, yet to be defined.  Diesels registered after 2015 (EURO VI standard) and petrol cars registered after 2005 (EURO IV) would be exempt from any charge. The Living Heart is calling on its supporters to measure the air pollution where they live, work or send their children to school.  Measuring tubes can be ordered from Friends of the Earth, who will analyse the results, building a more detailed picture of how air pollution is affecting people’s lives. Spokesman Steve Melia said

“The Government has created a framework that means councils like Bristol will probably have to create a charging zone to comply with the law.  Charging zones are a blunt instrument.  We are very concerned that this will do the bare minimum to reduce air pollution.  Some of the most polluting diesels on the market – such as the Nissan Qasquai, the Subaru Outback or the BMW X5 – will be exempt from any charge.[1]  Many owners of older vehicles will choose to pay the charge and carry on polluting.

We need to reduce the volume of traffic in polluted areas, starting with the city centre where the problem is worst.  In drawing up their plans to comply with the law, we call on Bristol City Council to show how they will reduce the volume of traffic that currently flows through the city centre.  They should follow the lead of cities such as Leicester (see our video) in removing the through traffic that poisons the air of everyone who lives, works or studies in the city centre.”

14Oct

Sticky: Traffic Removal Network – for Councillors and Professionals

Following a successful conference in Bristol in 2017 a network of professionals and councillors involved in traffic removal projects has been created.  See: www.trafficremoval.uk
15Dec

1000 Space New Car Park and 4-Lane Road in Bristol City Centre Would be Madness!

The Living Heart for Bristol** has condemned a planning application which would demolish shops along Horsefair to create a 1000 space car park and a four-lane road. (See the living-heart-objection-to-horsefair-application). The application from the Bristol Alliance Partnership, which owns Cabots Circus and part of Broadmead, would create a four-lane road with new traffic lights to access the new car park, near where CEX is located today.  It would also close Horsefair to vehicles and re-route buses around the city centre. “To knock down independent shops to build a four-lane road and a huge new car park in the centre of the city would be an act of madness! Bond Street, already clogs up in the rush hour; it already suffers from dangerously bad air pollution.  The four-lane road they want to build would cross over the bus lane carrying Metrobus, with a new set of traffic lights to slow all the buses down.  At busy times cars wanting to turn into the new car park will have to wait in the middle lane of Bond Street, blocking the rest of the traffic until they get a green signal to turn left. The Council have consulted with bus operators and shop owners who have ‘expressed concern’ about the congestion this car park would cause.  Councillors should listen to those concerns and tell the Bristol Alliance to go back to the drawing boards. We think some other aspects of this proposal are more positive; it would close off the rat-run along Horsefair and increase the pedestrianised area.  We would welcome that, but not at the price of carving a four-lane road and turning 33,000 square metres of the city centre into another car park.” Ciaran Mundy, Director of Transition Bristol added: “Redeveloping the centre of Bristol is a great opportunity to create enjoyable public spaces that can be safely enjoyed by thousands of residents and millions of visitors. It is an opportunity to reduce pollution from traffic too - over 300 tragic deaths a year in Bristol due to air pollution is far too many and increased pollution from diesel and petrol cars could harm or kill even more. A plan to encourage hundreds of extra parking spaces for private cars flies in face of the evidence on public health and the fact that we need to create a low carbon future to tackle climate change. Car dependent development of this kind is not only outdated, in my view it is morally wrong. Let’s choose a healthier, happier future.”
  • The planning application can be viewed here.  The overall description is here.
  • The plan, showing the size of the new car park is here.
  • The four-lane road is shown on page 2 of this document.
  • The Bus Options Report, which includes the concerns expressed above is here.
29Apr

Six Mayoral Candidates Back Living Heart Campaign to Remove Through Traffic and Create More Public Space

Six candidates for the mayoral elections, including all those with the highest odds of winning, have endorsed the Living Heart declaration of principles, which aims to improve the environment of central Bristol by removing through traffic, whilst retaining access for all:
  • Tom Baldwin, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
  • Kay Barnard, Liberal Democrat
  • Tony Dyer, Green Party
  • George Ferguson, Independent
  • Charles Lucas, Conservative
  • Marvin Rees, Labour
These principles also form part of Bristol’s Good Transport Plan (Objective 5).   The Living Heart has worked with the current Mayor, councillors and council officers to forward these principles in recent years.  There have been moves to implement them (e.g. in Corn Street) but progress has been slowed by a range of problems unrelated to the proposals themselves (see example).  The current Mayor, George Ferguson, said: “My objective is to make the centre and old part of Bristol car free and some of the surrounding areas low emission zones. Low emission zones will help but if we are serious about reducing traffic flows we need a city centre that only allows 0 emission vehicles to access.” The Labour candidate, Marvin Rees, said: “I am very happy to sign up to this declaration.  I look forward to putting in place a plan to deliver this.” Spokesman for the Living Heart, Steve Melia, said: “We are delighted that the Living Heart principles have been supported by such a wide range of candidates.  These issues are not party political; they are about improving central Bristol for everyone who lives, works, shops or spends leisure time in the city centre.  Remember the removal of the dual carriageway from Queen Square and College Green? That’s the sort of thing we want to see more of.  Removing through traffic is always controversial; as we have found in recent years, the devil is often in the detail.  But there are many ways it can be done, as shown by our neighbours in Bath and many other cities around Britain and Europe#.  We don’t underestimate the challenges but with this support from all the main candidates, we are confident that it can and will be made to happen.” Ciaran Mundy of Transition Bristol (a member organisation of the Living Heart) said: “the Living Heart principles are based on a simple idea that people’s physical health and happiness should be paramount. Removing the high volumes of through traffic emitting dangerous fumes and ruining enjoyment of public space in central Bristol is essential. I’m relieved to hear all main candidates for Mayor agree with that. It has been on the agenda for many years, many people have suffered and some have died through the lack of action. We want the next mayor to stick to these principles so people in Bristol have a fabulous city centre everyone can enjoy."  
14Feb

Make the Green Capital Money Worthwhile: Implement the Good Transport Plan

The Living Heart for Bristol* has called on the West of England authorities to incorporate Bristol’s Green Capital ‘Good Transport Plan’ into the strategy it is writing for whole area.  A failure to do this would be a waste of public money, they claim. The four West of England authorities have been conducting a consultation into a joint transport study for the West of England area.  Their draft strategy makes no reference to the Bristol Good Transport Plan which was developed by Bristol2015 and published last week.  Though not a formal document, it was supported by the Mayor and Bristol’s head of Transport.  Objective 5 of that plan is ‘a living heart for Bristol’. Spokesman Steve Melia said: “There has been a lot of controversy over whether the European Green Capital year made any difference to Bristol and whether the money spent was worth it.  Well here is a key test.  Hundreds of organisations and individuals worked for a year to produce the Good Transport Plan.  It was funded by Bristol2015 and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.  They produced a good plan but is it going to be implemented or was it all just talk? Quite separately from all this the West of England authorities have been consulting on a plan that will be implemented.  It will decide how transport is organised, what gets built and where money is spent.  If all the effort and money put into the Green Capital is to mean anything, then we need to see some results from it.  We call on the West of England authorities to incorporate the Good Transport Plan into their strategy on Bristol City Council, who supported this process, to push for its implementation.”
14Aug

Let’s Treat Prince Street Bridge Closure as a Trial

Bristol City Council has announced that Prince Street Bridge will be closed for 6 months starting on Monday August 17th for “essential structural repairs”.  The Living Heart for Bristol* has called for the closure to be treated as a trial.  They want the Council to monitor the impacts of the closure and make the findings public before any decision is made about how to reopen the bridge.  If the traffic system is able to cope with the closure, then the Living Heart would like to see the bridge re-opened for pedestrians, cyclists and emergency vehicles only with two new public squares created on either side of the Bridge.  The Living Heart website has published photo-montages of how the new area could look. [gallery link="file"] The two new squares would be on Prince Street at the side of the Arnolfini (see above) and on Wapping Road by the side of the MShed. Many other cities, have removed general traffic from bridges in their centres, including Pultney Bridge in Bath. Steve Melia, spokesman for the Living Heart for Bristol said: “This structural work offers a great opportunity to create a better living and working environment in the city centre.  Two of the objections we often hear to public realm improvements are that it will cause traffic chaos and it will cost too much money.  Well here is an opportunity that will cost no money, because the bridge is being closed anyway.  Will it cause traffic chaos? Will it make businesses bankrupt? It’s going to happen anyway for 6 months, so the Council should take the opportunity to monitor the situation.  If those predictions prove wrong, then why not take this great opportunity to improve our city at no cost?”                
11Jun

Six Quick Steps Towards Quieter Safer Streets in the City Centre

As the Metrobus works are delaying any potential changes to streets along its route, the Living Heart for Bristol* has proposed 6 potential schemes where progress towards quieter, safer streets could be made in the short-term.  The 6 potential schemes, which we have been suggested to the Mayor and the Council are:

  • No right turn from Tower Hill onto Passage Street
  • Filtering point to prevent rat-running between Three Queens Lane and Saint Thomas St in Redcliffe
  • Removal of general traffic (buses only) along Newgate
  • No entry to motor vehicles at the city end of King Street
  • Make Prince Street Bridge One-Way
  • Pedestrianise the northern end of Fairfax Street
More details about the 6 schemes are explained here Spokesman Steve Melia said: “The Council declared an aim in 2012 to gradually remove traffic from the central areas of the city.  Since then relatively little has happened.  We would like to see quieter safer streets in the central areas, to improve air quality and the quality of life for residents, visitors and people who work here.  We understand that the Mayor shares these aims and wants to make progress but cannot make changes along the Metrobus route until that project is finished.  With that in mind, we are suggesting 6 small-scale changes which could help to move us in the right direction.  We want to see big change, but small steps can help along the way.” Susan Carter of Bristol Ramblers said: "These small changes could make walking round Bristol's historic and scenic core much pleasanter.  and safer."  
26Feb

Bristol Must Think Bigger: 6 Ideas to Make a Real Green Capital

The Living Heart for Bristol** has called for Bristol to “think bigger to make the city a real Green Capital”.  It has suggested 6 ideas to leave the city transformed for the better at the end of this year.  Looking at the list of strategic projectsapproved by Bristol 2015.  (Appendix 2 of this document gives more details).  Steve Melia, spokesman for the Living Heart for Bristol said: “There are several good projects on this list; we wouldn’t disagree with many of them, but we see nothing that will leave Bristol transformed when 2015 is over.  The Council has other plans, some of which may bring improvements, but nothing to compare with the transformation of Queen Square and College Green 23 years ago.  Where is the imagination in all this? If Bristol wants to be taken seriously as a green capital we need to think bigger.  To stimulate that debate, the Living Heart has suggested 6 ideas which would transform the central areas of the city:”
  1. Pedestrianise* the eastern side of The Centre (scrap the new road planned to cut across it)
  2. Pedestrianise* the western end of Baldwin Street
  3. Pedestrianise* the Old City, starting with Corn Street and Fairfax Street
  4. Make Prince Street Bridge for pedestrians and cyclists only and create a new plaza on Prince Street.
  5. Join up the unfinished fragments of cycle paths around the central areas (e.g. on Baldwin Street, Nelson Street) to create a coherent network around and across the city centre.
  6. (For the longer-term) Start a feasibility study into burying sections of the M32 and the Inner Ring Road, a process Birmingham has been following for many years (see latest plans here) and London is now considering.
(* with cycle access – preferably on separate cycle paths) Ciaran Mundy, Director of Transition Bristol added: “2015 is here, we are European Green Capital. We need very tangible and lasting changes that make it significantly safer and more enjoyable for walking and cycling across the centre of our great city. Living Heart Proposals are just that.”  
The Living Heart for Bristol campaign aims to improve the central areas of Bristol & create new public space by diverting through traffic.
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